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Five things to know about the Swiss coach

Pirate Irwin/AFP · 30 Jun 2014, 18:34

Published: 30 Jun 2014 18:34 GMT+02:00

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East-West relations

An effective striker, Hitzfeld played for the West German team at the tragic 1972 Munich Olympics where he played in the first football match between the two Germanys and scored but the communist state won 3-2. With him in the team was Uli Hoeness, who years later would be responsible for bringing him to Bayern Munich.

Sensitive soul
Hitzfeld is a qualified mathematician who belies his profession's image as being cold and brutally logical. When he resigned as Bayern Munich coach for the first time in 2004, after helping the German side to the Champions League title, he told Sky Sports he "felt burnt out," and "a bit depressed". He needed two years to rediscover his joie de vivre.

Swiss love affair
The youngest of five children, Hitzfeld was born near the Swiss border and has had a long running love affair with the neighbouring country. His coaching career began at Swiss side Zug 94 and his first club as a player was FC Basel. When he agreed to become Swiss national coach in 2008 he described it as a great honour to lead the country at the World Cup finals, but also that it would give him a "a better lifestyle" and a "good transition to retirement."

Nice guys can be winners
Hitzfeld, generally regarded as one of the gentlemen of international football, has disproved the adage that nice people do not get trophies. Twice winner of world coach of the year and two Champions League trophies, he has never let his ego get the better of him. He rejected an approach from Manchester United in 2002 and later told the Daily Telegraph "I decided to stay in Germany because, when I am coaching I prefer to express myself in German because this is my mother tongue." He added: "I did not think I would be able to do myself justice if I had to speak to the players in English. I would not be able to get my emotions and feelings across." As for retirement, he is unequivocal. "I can live without football. "There are more important things in life," he said.

Story continues below…

'Der General'

Hitzfeld, 65, earned his "Der General" nickname from his football career and never wore a uniform. Ironically his uncle Otto was a highly-decorated general who served in the German army in World War II, commanding a corps in Adolf Hitler's final offensive, the Battle of the Bulge and the 11th Army, before being captured. The uncle had no association with Nazi regime crimes.

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Pirate Irwin/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

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